Regional specialties in Auckland and Melbourne
December 2, 2014 12:59 PM   Subscribe

When visiting cities, I always enjoy visiting casual, not-fancy restaurants that specialize in regional favorites unavailable or uncommon in my neck of the woods. Some US examples are deep dish pizza in Chicago, chili in Cincinnati, coney islands in Detroit, hot browns in Kentucky, cheesesteaks in Philly. When visiting Auckland and Melbourne next year, what are some distinctive regional specialties analogous to the above, and where should I go to try them?
posted by eschatfische to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Melbourne is the Australian capital of the parma. Lots of debate about which is the finest!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2014

Best answer: Melbourne:
A Four n' Twenty pie at the MCG (dead 'orse/sauce optional & extra).
The Dim Sim is another distinctive regional speciality that originated in Melbourne.

As neither of these local traditional factory-produced items may appeal to your taste (or those of millions of Melbournians), there is also the Melbourne Good Food Guide.
posted by Kerasia at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2014

I can't think of many local specialties that are only really available in Auckland - I'm not an expert though. I know that when I'm overseas I have trouble finding meat pies and fish and chips that taste as good as the ones in NZ, so maybe try and sample some of these places:
posted by kwes at 2:48 PM on December 2, 2014

Best answer: Whenever this Melburnian is overseas, she misses and craves Lebanese pizza. Mmmm...freshly baked pizza pockets oozing with delicious halloumi cheese; zesty zaatar (herb, sesame seed and olive oil) pizzas; minced lamb, tomato and sumac pizzas with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of dried chilli. *wipes up puddle of drool*

The classic places to eat it are Tabets and A1 Bakery though my favourite is Akaar Bakery. They're all on Sydney Rd, a short tram or train trip from the city.

I've never been to Auckland but I'd assume the classic sweet Belgian biscuit will be available in all good cafes and bakeries, just as they are on the South Island.
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 2:54 PM on December 2, 2014


400 Gradi on Lygon St, East Brunswick won an award for best margherita pizza in Italy earlier this year.

And I would recommend trying kangaroo somewhere. Edinburgh Castle on Sydney Rd, Brunswick might still do a really great roo fillet. I haven't been there in a couple of years.

I can't really think of many foods analogous with your examples.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:20 PM on December 2, 2014

Best answer: Another NZ speciality is the pāua (abalone) fritter, typically sold at fish and chip shops, I believe. Here's a place in Auckland that has them on the menu.
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 6:40 PM on December 2, 2014

Seconding dim sims... The South Melbourne Market has famous, enormous, ugly ones, although many people think they're not quite the same since the creator passed away.

Hot jam donuts from the van at Queen Victoria Market have been a Melbourne favourite since the 1950s (although the company is called the American Doughnut Kitchen!). Go early before they sell out.

Melbourne is apparently known for excellent coffee... I don't drink it so I don't know how accurate this is! St Ali in South Melbourne has a good reputation.
posted by Naanwhal at 7:12 PM on December 2, 2014

I'm an American living in Melbourne. Definitely try a few different parmas while you're in town. Parma Daze is a great resource when you're trying to find the perfect parma!

Other than that:

- Savoury meat pies are a big deal here. There are a lot of bad ones out there to be sure, but if you find a slightly upscale bakery or a place that specializes in pies you can often find something quite tasty.

- Kangaroo is worth a try, but has not become a regular part of my diet. Still, when friends and family come to visit I always make them eat some kangaroo.

- Lamb has become a huge part of my diet since moving here. Living in America I probably ate lamb once or twice per year on average, but here I usually have lamb once or twice per week. Souvlakis are probably the de facto late night food where I'm located, and I'm also a sucker for a good lamb-based pizza any time of day.
posted by adamk at 7:37 PM on December 2, 2014

For coffee in the Melbourne CBD I would recommend Dukes Coffee Roasters in Flinders Lane and Brother Budan (I think that's what it's called. Definitely B-something Budan) in Little Bourke St, just off Elizabeth Street. Or Little King behind St Paul's cathedral. These are the top three cafes where my boyfriend, who can't start his day without a flat white, gets his fix.

I don't think I would recommend St Ali. I've heard that the staff there can be rude
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:23 PM on December 2, 2014

Vanilla slice is a very popular Melbourne obsession - Acland St. in st kilda will have a great range of dessert shops.

Also, both Australia and NZ are famed for their pavlova. Brilliant dessert.

Some Melbourne institutions to eat at:

Pellegrinis on Bourke street - one of the oldest Italian diners in Melbourne! My mother in law ate there 52 years ago.

Pizza at DOC or 400 Gradi

Dessert at Brunettis

Go to victoria st, Richmond, for an AMAZING Vietnamese pork roll.

I think everyone has headed to Stalactites, in the cbd, for a hot lamb souvlaki after a big night. But the real stand out dish for me there is the Greek fish soup.

A very Melbourne thing to do is to spend an afternoon having a drink and meal at Cookie.

These above to me SCREAM Melbourne - because it's so multicultural and Melbourne loves that.

Also you must check out a Parma and a kangaroo steak, for sure.
posted by shazzam! at 10:39 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Coffee and pasta at Pellegrinis would have to be one of the most quintessential Melbourne experiences in my book. It's been there forever and hasn't changed since I was a kid, which is a very long time ago. It's quite humble in it's own legendary way and, whilst there's nothing particularly unique about great coffee and authentic italian pasta dishes, enjoying them at the bar in that wonderful little place is.
posted by mewsic at 2:07 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love your question (as you can tell by my continual appearances in this thread!). I've been thinking about this all day...

Big M's (flavoured milk in cartons) are iconically Aussie. They originated in Melbourne. You can find them for sale at some cafes, and also at bakeries, milk bars, convenience stores, supermarkets and servos. The usual flavours (chocolate, strawberry etc) are unremarkable, but if you look around you can find the classic egg flip flavour, which was reintroduced a few years ago by popular demand and public vote!

Another local drink (albeit one that's dwindling in popularity, and probably not as nice as it used to be) is portello, a type of soda. Its flavour is distantly related to port wine, and vaguely fruity. You can find it at the same type of places as the Big M.

In terms of cheap and cheerful meals, fish and chips are perennially popular. Most suburban shopping strips feature a fish and chip shop, and most pubs have them on the menu too. For truly fantastic fish and chips I'd recommend Dough! in the suburb of Newport (about 20 minutes from Melbourne by taxi). A lot of locals will scoff at me suggesting you trek out to an area surrounded by light industry and a power station, but this place makes their own hand-cut chips and potato cakes which are so good I think they make the trip more than worthwhile! (Sadly 'proper' chips are increasingly hard to find - most places use chips of the 'extruded potato by-product' variety). Depending on what time of year you're visiting, if it's still light in the evening, you could pick up your meal then wander down to the hidden oasis of the Newport Lakes.

Echoing what others have said, I'd highly recommend trying kangaroo. Keep in mind that it's a very lean meat, so best if it's served on the pink side, to stop it drying out. Though it's not mentioned on their website, the Charles Weston Hotel are doing a tasty and cheap $12 kangaroo pie special on Thursday nights. They're located just off Sydney Rd, a short trip from the city.

Another longtime favourite Melbourne eatery (though not quite as venerable as Pellegrinis!) is the Moroccan Soup Bar, in North Fitzroy, close to the city. There's no menu; you just tell them if you have any allergies, then they bring out a feast of delicious vegetarian dishes. (Despite the name, the one thing you won't get is soup!). Their chickpea bake is legendary. One of the few places it's worth lining up to get in to (they only take bookings for tables of 6 or more, so get there early or be prepared for a wait).

The South Melbourne dim sims previously mentioned are now available in the city (26 Elizabeth Street, and at the Emporium food court).

You can prove yourself a true Melburnian by asking for a 'snot block' when you order your vanilla slice :-D

I could go on, but I'll just say feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions. I <3 Melbourne food :-)
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 2:41 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

How could I forget Moroccan Soup Bar? Went there a few weeks ago and lined up ten minutes before they opened. We were second in line and the line kept growing as it got closer to 6 pm. Within two minutes of opening, the whole place was full. So, line up before it opens. It's totally worth it.

(Last comment from me, otherwise I won't be able to stop)
posted by kinddieserzeit at 2:46 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chiko Rolls are another unique Melbournian food, though they're slightly out of fashion these days. There's a dedicated shop at Southern Cross Station, but its opening hours are somewhat irregular.
posted by mosessis at 3:04 AM on December 4, 2014

I would say that there's nothing discretely unique about Auckland food, but what is unique is the eclecticism of the city's food culture and the seriousness with which it's taken. Auckland coffee, for instance, is among the best in the world. The best fish and chips I have ever eaten were Auckland fish and chips (Riddell Takeaways in East Auckland, to be specific). We used to drive across town regularly to get the mussel fritters and deep fried terakihi. I still think about them often. British fish and chips never compare. The point, though, is that there are many such places serving food you might get elsewhere done better than you're likely to get elsewhere. Pies (as mentioned above) are another case in point.

Maybe the best way to approach this is through Auckland's status as the world's biggest Polynesian city. Try to get some pacific island food while you're there. And drink the coffee. The coffee!
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:41 AM on December 4, 2014

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